Abstract: “Female Representation and Sexualization in Tabletop Gaming”

Accepted Abstract for the Southwest Popular and American Culture Association Conference in the Game Studies, Culture, Play, and Practice area, presented in Albuquerque on February 12, 2015.

While plenty of research has been done about the representation and sexualization of female characters in video games, very little has been done about tabletop gaming outside of tabletop RPGs. This presentation will look at several genres of tabletop gaming, analyzing the ratio of male to female characters and also the level of sexualization based on the images of the characters in the game, whether on cards, miniatures, or other character representations. For example, when examining three bluffing tabletop games with an age range of 10/12+, the games Coup and Masquerade feature a majority of male characters and the female characters are fully dressed. Agent Hunter, on the other hand, has a more even distribution of male and female characters but the female characters are sexualized.

Many traditional tabletop games are gender-neutral, but games are increasingly including female characters as tabletop gaming becomes more character driven. While females are frequently not present or only have limited representation, the level of sexualization of the females depends on the genre, with many genres having relatively low levels of sexualization. This may stem from the fact that tabletop gaming is often thought of as “family gaming,” resulting in more child-conscious artistic choices. Despite the lessened sexualization in many games, however, there is still a widespread lack of gender equality in tabletop games that needs to be addressed with increased awareness of the problem.

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